Fact check: The Hunting Ground and Wikipedia

On 11/19, opinion columnist Ashe Schow claimed that a member of our crew was “caught” editing Wikipedia to “make facts conform to the film.” In fact, our colleague was working, with full disclosure and in accordance with Wikipedia policy, to correct errors in Wikipedia articles and to expand articles in reference to high quality source materials. Here are the facts that you should know:

Schow’s headline is inaccurate: Our colleague was not “caught.” He disclosed his connection from the beginning (and not just from September as her column claimed).

The Hunting Ground and its crew have taken great care to respect Wikipedia’s principles and values. As documentary filmmakers, prior to our colleague’s engagement, we agreed that the goal was to improve Wikipedia according to its own standards, not to boost the film. We sought the advice of a qualified Wikipedia agency before beginning.

Our colleague’s approach not only met but exceeded Wikipedia’s standards for disclosure (which call for only a single statement). He has followed best practices by introducing high-quality, independent source materials, and by proactively seeking consensus with other Wikipedia editors. This is all according to our understanding of Wikipedia best practices.

The Jameis Winston article in particular was skewed, by Wikipedia’s own standards and by any other reasonable measure, before our employee made his edits. As a top draft prospect, Winston was covered extensively in early 2015; nearly every article (in mainstream, sports, and entertainment media) centered on his off-field behavioral problems, and whether they would prevent him from becoming the #1 draft pick. A Pulitzer Prize winner covered it in depth in the New York Times; so did USA Today, the Washington Post, ESPN, and Sports Illustrated. But the Wikipedia article gave very little attention to his off-field issues. As of today, and resulting from Schow’s column, Wikipedia editors have largely disregarded that coverage, deleting several such citations as they restored the extraordinarily biased version to Wikipedia.

As one example of our colleague’s efforts to work in a collegial manner with other Wikipedia editors, he responded to the following comment by adding two independent sources indicating the significance of the New York Times report: “Yes, Items about the draft seem to be long standing information. In addition The New York Times investigation should be cited from a separate source, it is self-published information.”

Ashe Schow, in criticizing our conflict of interest, doesn’t acknowledge her own conflict of interest: She is an alumna of Florida State University, an object of The Hunting Ground’s criticism.